When I first decided to take a social media detox for my trip to Myanmar, I wasn’t too worried. In fact I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little cocky.
I could last for twelve days! Twelve days was nothing! Especially considering I wasn’t going to be stuck in one place with nothing to do but trawl through memes and status updates online. I was going to be in Myanmar! Why would I want to be on social media when I would be much too busy seeing all of the things?
The trip began well. We took a few last selfies on the way to the airport, and then spent the next half hour frantically updating statuses and sending messages. Once we were at the departures lounge I deleted my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram apps, and was thrilled at how much more room I had on my phone (so much more room for activities!)
Since we wouldn’t be using social media, neither of us bothered to buy a sim card in Myanmar. This ended up being a little tricky as we would have used it for Google maps, Hostelworld, and researching where we were staying. We stuck to our plan though, and arrived in Yangon with plenty of room for photos on our iPhones.
The first half of the trip was great. I barely missed social media, and when I did I quickly realised that going online wasn’t worth the time, since the internet in Myanmar is so incredibly bad. It was ok in Yangon, but as soon as we got to Bagan I was kind of glad that the internet was so bad. While it was frustrating, we spent a lot of time talking to other travellers, and used recommendations from then.
Unfortunately, just as we were getting to the half way mark we both got ill. Izy succumbed, and I would have felt smug, except truthfully, the only reason I didn’t end up on social media was because I was too sick to go downstairs for a couple of days, and that was the only way we could get internet.
We were stuck in the guesthouse, and I was so ill all I wanted to do was sleep. Eventually we moved on to Mandalay, and by then I only had a few days left of my challenge so I managed to stay strong.
While it was definitely harder than I thought it would be, I think the reason the first half of the trip was so easy was because I was traveling with a friend. When you’re traveling solo you don’t have anyone to share experiences with, so there are none of those conversations that start off with “remember when”. I think this is why we end up spending so much time on social media, particularly when traveling alone. It’s not because we’re addicted, but because we sometimes need someone to share our photos with.
I wanted to post a status when I was sick, and receive sympathy from my friends. I wanted everyone to know how shitty I was feeling, not because it would have improved my friends days at all, but because it would have improved mine.
Luckily I had Izy with me, who was also sick, and since I couldn’t moan online I simply moaned to her instead.
When I finally got back to Bangkok and went back on social media, I was excited for around 10 minutes as I answered all my messages and checked my notifications, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t nearly as fun as I had built it up to be in my head. I thought I had been missing out for the last 12 days, but nothing particularly interesting had happened. I’d missed a few friends birthdays, but staying on social media wouldn’t have actually added anything to my trip.
The social media detox was good for me, and I realised exactly how much time I had been devoting to Facebook and Instagram. Instead of looking down at my phone, I was paying complete attention when someone spoke to me, and I was actually living in the moment.
Have you taken a social media detox? Do you think you will in the future?